Week 15 NFL Power Rankings: Will a true No. 1 please step up?
The top three teams most of the season are starting to reveal their warts.
New Orleans had its mighty offense stomped on in Dallas two games ago and then struggled to handle Tampa Bay on Sunday. Kansas City, minus running back Kareem Hunt, is not quite as explosive and that sad defense is a huge issue. The Los Angeles Rams’ powerful offense got defused by Chicago on Sunday Night.
All of this makes what once appeared to be the unchallenged cream of the crop appear vulnerable with the playoffs a few weeks away.
In an NFL world that embraces parity, who would want it any other way?
1. Kansas City Chiefs (11-2). Last week: 2.
Fentress says: Kansas City moves to the top spot because the Los Angeles Rams’ looked awful at Chicago. But is this really the best team in the NFL? It’s difficult to say given that the team his now operating without former RB Kareem Hunt and a mediocre defense. Next up is a critical AFC West clash against the Los Angeles Chargers.
2. New Orleans Saints (11-2). Last week: 3.
Fentress says: The Saints’ offense has looked mortal as of late. New Orleans got it going just in time to win 28-14 at Tampa Bay (27th ranked defense). The Saints have the NFC South wrapped up but remain in a race with the Rams for the No. 1 seed in the NFC. It's imperative that the Saint's sputtering offense right itself.
3. Los Angeles Rams (11-2). Last week: 1.
Fentress says: Speaking of problematic offenses, what the heck happened to the Rams at Chicago? Yes, the Bears have one of the best defenses in the NFL but it gave up 30 at the New York Giants the previous week. Yet the Rams managed just two field goals in a 15-6 loss?
4. Los Angeles Chargers (10-3). Last week: 6.
Fentress says: Narrowly defeating Cincinnati at home is not the stuff of a top-five team. But at this point of the season the Chargers have earned a place near the top with 10 victories and will have a chance to win the AFC West if they can win this weekend at Kansas City.
5. Houston Texans (9-4). Last week: 4.
Fentress says: The Texans’ nine-game winning streak came to an end against Indianapolis at home. But Houston still has a shot at earning at least a first-round bye with a soft remaining schedule: at the New York Jets, at Philadelphia and home against Jacksonville.
6. New England Patriots (9-4). Last week: 5.
Fentress says: The most glaring problem for New England, beyond the fact that TE Rob Gronkowski is not a good tackler in space, is that the Patriots have lost four road games and more than likely will need to win a road playoff game to reach the Super Bowl.
7. Chicago Bears (9-4). Last week: 7.
Fentress says: After QB Mitchell Trubisky threw three inexplicable interceptions against the Rams, the question asked was is he simply not playoff ready or did missing two weeks with a shoulder injury set him back? The Bears hope it’s the latter because as of right now he could be what holds back this team in the playoffs.
8. Dallas Cowboys (8-5). Last week: 8.
Fentress says: Dallas’ defense is red hot and the offense is just good enough to make it stand up. The result is that after going 3-5 in the first half of the season the Cowboys have won five consecutive games and appear set to win the NFC East.
9. Seattle Seahawks (8-5). Last week: 9.
Fentress says: It’s time to consider Seattle a threat to win a first round playoff game on the road at Chicago or Dallas. The Seahawks rushed for 214 against Minnesota’s stout run defense and their defense did a number on Vikings’ QB Kirk Cousins. Running games and defenses travel well in the NFL.
10. Baltimore Ravens (7-6). Last week: 10.
Fentress says: After winning three straight, Baltimore fell 27-24 in overtime at Kansas City. The loss should have only reinforced the idea that the Ravens are playoff worthy and could be a dangerous threat in the playoffs, espeically given the wild card that is rookie QB Lamar Jackson.
11. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5-1). Last week: 11.
Fentress says: The Steelers have dropped three consecutive games with Sunday’s 24-21 loss at Oakland being the most egregious of the bunch. Players claim there is not no panic in their locker room. However, they are just a half of a game ahead of Baltimore in the AFC North, there are three other 7-6 teams in the wild card hunt and the Steelers face New England the New Orleans next.
12. Minnesota Vikings (6-6-1). Last week: 12.
Fentress says: Minnesota’s offense failed to show up for a huge game for the third time in four weeks at Seattle. However, The Vikings remain very much alive in the wild card race because every other team in the hunt not from Seattle also lost over the weekend. Minnesota hosts Miami this week then plays at hapless Detroit before closing against a Chicago team that might not have anything to play for in its final game.
13. Indianapolis Colts (7-6). Last week: 13.
Fentress says: The Colts saved their season with a win at Houston. Dallas is up next.
14. Miami Dolphins (7-6). Last week: 17.
Fentress says: Miami ends the season with Jacksonville and Buffalo, so nine wins seems likely. Can the Dolphins win this week at Minnesota?
15. Tennessee Titans (7-6). Last week: 15.
Fentress says: The Titans should be 9-6 in two weeks after facing the New York Giants and reeling Washington. Tennessee ends the season against the Colts in a game that could be for a wild card spot.
16. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7). Last week: 16.
Fentress says: The defending Super Bowl champions need a ton of help and play their next two games at the Rams and against Houston.
17. Green Bay Packers (5-7-1), Last week: 20.
Fentress says: QB Aaron Rodgers believes this team is still in the hunt but they will need to win out and get a ton of help.
18. Cleveland Browns (5-7-1). Last week: 21.
Fentress says: The looks like a potential playoff team in 2019.
19. Denver Broncos (6-7). Last week: 14.
Fentress says: Loss at San Francisco probably ended Denver’s playoff hopes.
20. Carolina Panthers (6-7). Last week: 18.
Fentress says: Once upon a time this team had a 6-2 record and looked like a force. Monumental collapse.
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-8). Last week: 23.
Fentress says: Since returning to the starting lineup three games ago, QB Jameis Winston has thrown six touchdown passes with one interception.
22. Washington (6-7). Last week: 19.
Fentress says: Good thing Washington went with a QB that knows the offense against the New York Giants (sarcasm).
23. New York Giants (5-8). Last week: 27.
Fentress says: The Giants have won four of their last five games.
24. Detroit Lions (5-8). Last week: 26.
Fentress says: Detroit’s offense looked awful during a 17-3 win at Arizona. Will the Lions ever get it right with QB Matt Stafford?
25. Cincinnati Bengals (5-8). Last week: 22.
Fentress says: The Bengals have lost five consecutive games since starting the season 5-3.
26. New York Jets (4-9). Last week: 29.
Fentress says: The Jets ended a six-game losing streak with a win over Buffalo.
27. Atlanta Falcons (4-9). Last week: 24.
Fentress says: Atlanta and Jacksonville should play each other in the Disappointment Bowl.
28. Buffalo Bills (4-9). Last week: 25.
Fentress says: QB Josh Allen’s 52.4 completion percentage should be no surprise given that he completed 56.2 percent of his passes at Wyoming.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-9). Last week: 28.
Fentress says: Remember when the Jaguars were top four? Now they are bottom four.
30. San Francisco 49ers (3-10). Last week: 31.
Fentress says: The emergence of tight end George Kittle (210 yards in win over Denver) has one of few bright spots this season.
31. Oakland Raiders (3-10). Last week: 32.
Fentress says: Win over Pittsburgh shows that this team has not quit on coach Jon Gruden.
32. Arizona Cardinals (3-10). Last week: 30.
Fentress says: Lost 17-3 to Detroit despite giving up just 218 yards of offense.